- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
As the long, hot days of summer slide into cooler, shorter days of autumn, seasonal changes are occurring in my garden. Not as many plants are blooming, the leaves on deciduous trees and plants are becoming drier and starting to change color. Some plants are producing autumn berries that will sustain many birds as insects, another source of food, begin to disappear.
Quite a few butterflies have been showing up in my garden to take advantage of flowers that are still blooming. Butterflies I have been seeing include painted ladies (Vanessa cardui), common buckeyes (Junonia coenia), fiery skippers (Hylephila phyleus)and cabbage whites (Pieris rapae).
With the advent of winter, butterflies disappear since they cannot tolerate temperatures below 55°F or rainy weather. So, what happens to butterflies in the winter???
Some Butterflies Migrate
Some butterfly adults migrate south, overwintering in warmer climates.
Monarch butterflies are known for their astonishingly long spring and fall migrations. Both the eastern monarchs and western monarchs began their southern migrations in late August or early September from southern Canada/northern USA to their overwintering sites. The eastern variety generally heads to the oyamel fir forests in the mountains of central Mexico, whereas the western Pacific species have a shorter journey to California's coastline. You may see some western monarchs this fall resting or feeding on flowers in your garden as they fly through the Central Valley on their way their overwintering sites in coastal areas such as Santa Cruz, Pacific Grove, Pismo Beach, and San Diego.
Other Winter Strategies
Most butterflies spend winter in the same area they spent summer.
Some lay their eggs in autumn on, or close to, their specific host plants with the eggs hatching the following spring. The common hairstreak (Satyrium californica) eggs are laid attached to twigs of oaks with the caterpillars feeding on newly emerged spring leaves.
Some butterflies weather the cold as pupa within a chrysalis in a sheltered spot. During this time, the pupa will enter diapause (where development stops). An antifreeze chemical in their blood allows them to survive cold temperatures. Once the days lengthen, it will resume its transformation, emerging as an adult just as in time for blooming flowers that provide nectar. The tiger swallowtail's chrysalis (Papilio rutulus) will take refuge in deep shrubbery. The anise swallowtails (Papilio zelicaon) and cabbage whites also generally overwinter as a pupa in their chrysalis. Fiery skippers usually overwinter as pupae buried in leaves, but some adults will migrate to southern California.
Mourning cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa)go into dormancy as an adult. Their blood also contains an anti-freeze. They tuck themselves into cracks and crevices of rocks and trees.
Leaving the Leaves
- Learn which butterflies live in your area and grow native plants for those specific species.
- Offer nectar plants in the fall and spring months for butterflies that are migrating, emerging from overwintering, or getting ready to go into winter dormancy/hibernation.
- Skip raking the leaves in your garden in autumn and leave standing plants alone until midspring, so overwintering butterfly larvae, pupae and adults have a place to hide. If leaving the leaves on your lawn is too messy for you, consider not disturbing the leaves in your planters.
- If you find what looks like a dead chrysalis (many resemble dead leaves) in your yard, garage, shed, do not disturb it. A butterfly may well emerge in the spring.
- Avoid using pesticides as much as possible.
- Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site: https://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/butterflies
- Butterflies in Your Garden, Publication from UCCE Stanislaus County :https://ucanr.edu/sites/CEStanislausCo/files/345791.pdf
- Xerces Society - Pollinator Plants: Central Valley of California: https://xerces.org/publications/plant-lists/ppbi-california-central-valley
- California Native Plant Society: https://www.cnps.org/
- UC Davis Arboretum – Larval Hosts for Butterflies: https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/blog/larval-host-plants-butterflies
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener in Stanislaus County since 2020./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
Hello Sprout readers, We have a few questions for you…
- Are you tired of your landscape and ready for something new?
- Have you been thinking about replacing all or part of your lawn?
- Are you confused about how to transition from sprinkler to drip irrigation?
- Do you want to attract insect pollinators and birds to your landscape?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, this is the workshop for you! Learn how to replace your sprinkler system and convert to drip, hear about some low water use plants, including a list of plants that can provide bloom year-round.
Bring your questions! This is an especially great opportunity to speak with Tim Long, an expert in drip irrigation systems, as well as our other speakers who have experience with growing CA natives and lawn removal.
Workshop cost includes seeds, plants, and presentation materials and helps support our program. If you are unable to afford to pay for this class, not a problem! Just sign up so we know you are coming.
Where: Ag Center, Harvest Hall rooms D&E, 3800 Cornucopia Way, Modesto, 95358.
When: Saturday, October 7, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Questions? (209) 525-6800
Sign Up: https://ucanr.edu/new/front/yard
Instructors: UC Cooperative Extension, Stanislaus County Master Gardeners - Heidi Aufdermaur, Tim Long, Rhonda Allen, Doone Cockrell, and Bobbie Green.
Valley Oak (Querus lobata):
The acorns were a staple food, which was leached (rinsed with water) to remove the bitterness, and ground into flour with mortar and pestles. The ground acorns were used in stews/soups, pancakes/tortillas, mush, or layered into pits and cooked with other plants and meats. Oak galls were squeezed to make a blue-black ink for tattoos and tannins were used to make dyes and decorate animal skins.
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens):
A major grass for creating beautiful, sometimes water-tight baskets to cook food, to carry and store food and other items. Stalks were generally harvested in the spring when easy to pick, then wrapped to keep straight and allowed to cure for a year. They were often soaked prior to weaving into basket. About 1600 stalks would be needed to make one basket.
Santa Barbara Sedge (Carex barbarae):
The rhizomes (underground stems which generally grow horizontally) provided the strongest threads for basket making. The people would manage the rhizome growth by cleaning the soil of anything that might obstruct the growth (i.e., rocks) to allow the rhizomes to grow long and straight. An evergreen grass, the summer flowers range from cream, red and purple colors, which attract butterflies.
Toyon, aka California Holly (Heteromeles arbutifolia):
The wood from this sturdy shrub had many uses including tools, games/toys, fuel for smoking fish, and religious ceremonies. The red berries produced in the fall which were eaten after roasting over coals or dried in the sun.
An evergreen shrub, the summer white flowers attract bees and butterflies. Birds love the berries.
Blue Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea):
This tough, easy-to-grow shrub or tree is dormant in the winter. The spring and summer blooming cream or yellow flowers attract bees and butterflies, with their berries being an important food source to many birds.
Manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita):
Its distinctive red wood which was sometimes used to dry and smoke fish. The fruit was gathered in summer, then dried and ground to make coarse meal which would be mixed with a little water during winter months or made biscuits. They would make tea with the berries and tips of the branches, which apparently was a pleasant drink.
Sticky Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus):
The seeds were used as a food source. They were gathered, parched, ground, and added to foods or eaten by the handful. Flowers were used as décor after drying, made into wreaths, and used in religious ceremonies. The roots and leaves were used for medicinal purposes.
This drought-tolerant, evergreen shrub blooms in the spring, summer, and fall. The bright yellow tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Autumn seeds attract small birds.
Whenever I see any of these California native plants, I think of how the indigenous people of California used these plants over thousands of years. By growing them in our gardens, we honor that history, help the survival of these plants which provide food sources for so many birds, bees, and butterflies, reduce water usage, bring variety to our gardens, and joy to our spirits with their beauty.
Learn more at the Library - Take a free class!
This September, our UC Master Gardeners will present on the topic, "CA Native Plants" at 9 Stanislaus County Library locations. Visit our Calendar at https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Calendar/ for dates, times, and locations.
On Saturday, October 7, 2023, we are offering our "The New Front Yard" workshop. Topics include drip irrigation, converting your yard to native plants, and how to garden for year-round bloom! Stay tuned for the registration announcement.
- Enough For All: Foods of My Dry Creek Pomo and Bodega Miwuk People by Kathleen Rose Smith
- The Real California Cuisine: A Treatise on California Native-Plant Foods by Judith Larner Lowry
- Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson
- Indian Summer: A True Account of Traditional Life Among the Choinumni Indians of California's San Joaquin Valley
- Great Valley Museum of Natural History at Modesto Junior College's exhibit on Yokuts
- California Native Plant Society: https://www.calscape.org/
Acknowledgment: Lillian Vallee, English professor emeritus, Modesto Junior College, who has shared her passion and knowledge with me over the years of California native plants and their historical uses by the California native people.
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener in Stanislaus County since 2020.
Several local agencies will have booths with educational information about pollinators and how we can help them thrive. Come spin the wheel/guess the pollinator at the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program table and take home a sticker or a bookmark.
This is a free family event with many activities for children. Crafts and games will also be included. A demo beehive will give children a close up look at bees. Food trucks will be on site to provide lunch. This will be a fun day for kids, so put this on your calendar!
Rhonda Allen has been a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener since 2020.
- Author: Anne Schellman
Currently, we are installing demonstration gardens to be used as outdoor classrooms that the public can visit anytime, and we need your help!
Our Pollinator Garden is in the installation stage, and we could not be more thrilled. Currently, the irrigation and native plants are going in. Our Master Gardener volunteers were hard at work leveling, raking, and planting just this week.
A big “thank you” to the West Resource Conservation District that helped us prepare the garden site, and to our local North San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society https://nsj.cnps.org/ for purchasing and donating the native plants! Many of these species are unusual and not normally found in the landscape. Although newly planted, everyone is welcome to stop by and visit*.
Your Funds Help Make this Garden Happen
Help make this demonstration garden come to life! Funds will be used to purchase additional plants, tools, and educational signage. Our big funding goal is a decomposed granite walkway. This is a pricey item, which can cost several thousand dollars. The benefits are a pathway accessible to everyone that avoids runoff and allows good drainage.
How to Give
If you prefer to donate by check, please make it out to: UC Regents and send to:
UCC Stanislaus County Master Gardener Program
3800 Cornucopia Way, Ste A
Modesto, CA 95358
We look forward to meeting you in the near future in our “outdoor classroom” aka Pollinator Garden for classes on pollinators, California native plants, and how you can support them in your backyard garden, patio, apartment, or classroom.
* Our gardens are located at the Ag Center complex on the corner of Crows Landing and Service Roads in Modesto at 3800 Cornucopia Way, 95358. The Pollinator Garden is on the east side of the Stanislaus building, while the Sensory Garden is on the west side./h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>